The eternal discussion of digital vs Film camera continues and it has now taken shape of a debate as most of the popular manufacturer of popular film camera have decided to completely replace there assembly line with Digital camera, Nikon is already doing away with its Film SLR and completely replacing it with the new breed of DSLR , thankfully you will still be able to use old Nikon lens kits with the DSLR but then you will need to manually focus as Nikon D40,D40x and D50 doesn't have a motor built in the camera body and instead they rely on lenses with inbuilt motor to Auto focus. Minolta has been bought over by Sony and Canon has also pretty much given up on manufacturing Film SLR's and like Olympus they are only producing compact film cameras and every thing else have gone digital, so what does a photography enthusiast do in such case, where does he/her start..when to upgrade and upgrade to what..I will try and answer such issues in the rest of the article.
lets first Categorize the users
1. A person trying to upgrade from a Film compact Camera to a Film SLR or Digital Compact or DSLR :
Since the above user is fresh into photography as he is still using a Compact film camera..I think its more advisable for him to go in for a Digital Compact Camera..with a budget of around Rs 7000 you can easily buy a Digital Camera with 3-4x zoom (28-55 mm) or (28-70mm) also before buying they must check what all features the camera offers , usually in this kind of budget you can easily find camera with aperture priority or shutter priority which gets you pretty close to shooting the picture for your self and not letting the camera's Auto mode shoot it for you, another thing that can be checked is exposure..from shortest to longest..usually in the above budget it ranges from 1/2000 of sec to 8-10 sec (long exposure). Most people who buy camera usually don't explore there cameras and keep using it like a regular point and shoot not realizing that there camera is capable of much more than that.
I think a Canon powershot A460 or A550 is a good example of such Camera..which is cheap ,very compact and yet very capable..another example is Samsung D430.
Canon Powershot A550
2. A person trying to upgrade from a Film SLR to Compact Digital Camera or DSLR:
This is the category where there is the biggest confusion specially because people using a FilmSLR would never prefer to downgrade themselves to Compact Digital and so the only option they look at is a DSLR, which is actually because of there ignorance and lack of research..the Compact Digital Cameras don't always mean a point and shoot Camera, there are lot of high end compact camera (which are priced much lesser than DSLR) who are as capable as a entry level DSLR and sometimes even better..best Example is an Olympus SP550 UZ its a compact camera which gives you a 18x zoom that is 27mm to (hold your breath)500mm, they give you a complete manual mode,also gives a shutter and aperture priority mode, Video Capture at 640*480@30fps,image stabilization,ISO from as low as 50 to as high as 5000 and is able to Shoot in RAW format and all this costs you around Rs.16500, another option is my personal favorite FujiFilm FinePix S9600 which doesn't has a zoom of Olympus SP550 and only has a 28-300 mm Zoom (which is pretty good if you compare it with any DSLR cause you will need at least two separate lens kits to get that range) besides its a very sturdy Camera and looks and feels just like a DSLR, one of the thing I really like about this piece is that it has a manual zoom so every time you want to zoom in you can rotate your lens just like in SLR's and zoom into a subject instead of toggling buttons and a snout sticking out in front of the camera (which also eventually spoils the motor of the camera) you can manually focus with this once as well also that it provides a aperture range from f2.8 to f11 ( which is as good as a Entry level DSLR) and has 9.1 Megapixel with RAW output..the fact that you have the range of 28-300mm at your disposal (leaves hardly anything left out until you want to do a intergalactic photo shoot) there is nothing you cant shoot with this baby..this is almost a DSLR the only reason it doesn't completely crosses over is just because it has a fixed lens. Smartly priced at around Rs.22000 which is the same as Nikon D40 (but you will need to buy the telephoto lens separately which will cost you extra Rs 12000.) Its one of the best buys available in the market for someone who is trying to upgrade to some serious photography.
Olympus SP 550 Uz
Fuji finepix S9600
You can also look at Panasonic DMC- FZ30, Sony Cybershot DSC H70 or Canon Powershot S 5is
3. A person trying to upgrade from a Compact Digital to a Film SLR or a DSLR :
This is a tricky one..the biggest paradox here is the general misconception that Digital camera only upgrades to another Digital Camera and can not upgrade to a Film Camera..which isn't quite true,Digital and Film camera both take pictures, in Film SLR there is a cost of a film roll but then the Camera bodies are really cheap and also lets not forget that you get to click slides through a film SLR which gives you a resolution which is more than 10 times that of a DSLR with the highest Megapixel.
Since in Film SLR there isn't a CCD and the picture get imprinted on a negative, you are able to easily point the camera directly towards a high powered light source and click a picture, if you do the same with you DSLR, you will end up damaging your CCD..also the fact that DSLR camera are mostly integrated circuits and micro chips , makes them even more susceptible to damages due to dust, moisture and shock..Film SLR instead are cheap and mostly mechanical (gears and pulleys) so they might rust but will still keep working under very hard conditions.
The only thing that turns the table around drastically in favor of DSLR is Replaybility ie ability to view the image the moment you click it..while in Film SLR you will first need for your roll to get over, then give it for developing and only after that you can view the pictures that you have clicked. This one obvious point which actually seems to work in favor of a digital SLR sometimes works against it..!! Let me Explain :
Say you are a hobbyist and you buy your self a Digital SLR, its very easy for a person starting with photography to get overwhelmed by feature rich camera with an Artificial intelligence, that he disregards to most common things ie Shutter and Aperture (trust me lot of people prefer using ISO settings instead of adjusting the shutter in low light conditions and eventually they end up getting images which looks good on the LCD of the Camera but once you transfer it to a computer..it looks grainy and noisy..therefore the DSLR increases the learning curve. A Film SLR instead, is a rather simple assembly..a Exposure Knob and a Aperture Setting and then that green and red light signal showing when the image is getting rightly exposed, that blinks inside your view finder (light meter) and that's that. Even the fact there are exhibitions and competitions that asks you to submit negatives and slides of you photograph (in order to make sure the picture isn't post processed using Photoshop or any other photo editing software.) makes a Film SLR a viable purchase.
But the biggest factor is the cost..as more and more DSLR are being pumped into the market, the second hand market of Film SLR is showing tremendous growth, now a second hand SLR is easily available for Rs.7000 to 10,000 and telephoto lenses are available in the range of Rs 3000 to 7000. which combined is cheaper than most of the Compact Digital Camera available with 3 or 4 x zoom and around 6 Megapixel. Which is nothing compared to a 35 mm film (its the same size of film that you watch in the theater, the image that you see on the screen is the resolution your film camera is able to shoot at.)
My honest suggestion is if you really want to take up photography as a hobby and learn with what all a SLR Camera can do..get your self a Film SLR instead of DSLR and make sure the lenses you are buying with it have a common mount..so that when you buy a DSLR later you can use the same lenses. you will need to do a bit of research for this..from what I have gathered
All the Nikkor lenses can be used with any Nikon DSLR but there wont be a Auto Focus and you will need to Manually focus.
All Canon lenses also go with Canon DSLR
Most of the Tamron Lenses goes with Pentex
Sigma Lenses goes with Olympus and Nikon mounts but again in Nikon you will need to Manually focus.
Vivitar 3800 N Film SLR
4. Why to buy a DSLR at all.
Interestingly if I go with my above arguments then there is actually no need for anybody to buy a DSLR , but there is..for everybody who wants to take photography seriously and wants there camera to do more for them. Even in my past argument I have stated that the Digital compact that comes closest to being a DSLR is Fuji Finepix with fixed lens of 28-300 mm, but then there is a 10mm wide angle lens available and a 500mm Zoom lens available , and in order to use those you would need a DSLR. there is no denying that the image quality of DSLR is a notch better than a compact digital camera and when it comes to making prints a shot taken from a DSLR would provide better results compared to a Compact Digital Camera.
What's really important for one to understand is the resolution of there camera..a entry level DSLR like a Nikon D40 gives you a 6.1 Megapixel or a Canon EOS D30 with 4 Megapixel which is much lesser than that of a Fuji FinePix S9600 (Compact Digital Camera) which gives you a resolution of 9 Megapixel and still carries the same price tag and tends to be cheaper if you intend to buy a Nikon D40 with a telephoto lens kit ,which will then cost Rs.22000 (Camerabody and 18-55 mm lens) +Rs 11000 (Telephoto Lens 50mm-200mm) . If you really need a DSLR , then don't mind spending a little more and buying a Nikon D40x or an Olympus E410 or Canon 40 D all of them gives you a 10 Megapixel resolution , so even if you decide to shoot in really low light using a ISO setting which is above 400 and then decide to make prints of 4 X 6 ,the results will be pretty decent.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is the purpose you will be using your Camera for ie if you intend to do extensive night photography, then many of the above Entry level DSLR don't offer you a cable release socket (although they have a 'b' exposure) instead they allow you to use a remote which you need to buy separately and it costs much more than a cable release does. On the positive side , all the above DSLR gives you a long Exposure of 30 sec's, but if you want to go beyond that..be ready to spend extra money and buy a remote control that is sold seperately.
Nikon D40 x
Olympus Evolt 410
I would conclude by saying that its a good idea to have you DSLR as your second Camera which you use along with either a Compact Digital Camera or a SLR, and if you have decided to buy a DSLR then try not to compromise with the Entry level DSLR and spend a little more and buy something that is probably mid range if you dont have enough money then wait till you have the budget, because there is nothing worse than spending a lot of money and then being unsatisfied with the product..I would suggest an Olympus E 410 ( I know Nikon and Canon are more popular names but Olympus scores above them when it comes to features and that too for the same price.) Also remember one thing, its not the Camera that makes good picture..its the person taking those snaps.
Points to Remember while buying a high End Digital Camera (Compact or DSLR)
- Does the camera shoots the RAW format.
- How many Megapixel ( the more the merrier)
- The lens ( how wide is it and how much can it zoom)
- The aperture in Wide and Tele mode (the bigger the aperture ie lesser Value, the shallower Depth of field -for eg at wide angle a f2.8 will be better than f4 and at Telephoto an f 4 will be better than a f 5.6.
- the Dynamic range of Exposure ie bigger the range the better the camera
- what is the longest Exposure that the camera can shoot in usually ranges from 8 secs to 30 secs
- Does the Camera have a bulb exposure
- ISO range
- Availability of lens kits in case of DSLR ( the price and how easily are they available)
- Image Stabilization ( in the case come compact cameras with nice Zoom).
- Navigation is over rated..as you get used to the camera ..it becomes easier for you to navigate through the controls , so don't be taken in by some one who compares Camera based on Navigation
- Image Quality ( are you happy with what you see)- for this you can do a following test..select all the camera you are interested in and put them on Auto mode and then click the same subject with all of them, once you have taken the picture..start zooming into it and go all the way till the end, now compare the images for noise and loss and color..the more saturated colors and the less noise the better the image quality.